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Susan Rice: US Not Apologizing to Afghanistan

Image: Susan Rice: US Not Apologizing to Afghanistan

By Greg Richter   |   Tuesday, 19 Nov 2013 07:35 PM

National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Tuesday denied reports that the United States plans to apologize to the Afghan people in a deal that would allow troops to remain in the country beyond 2014.

"I've seen those reports. I have no idea where they come from. That is a complete misunderstanding of what the situation is," Rice said on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

"No such letter has been drafted or delivered. There is not a need for the United States to apologize to Afghanistan. Quite the contrary," she said. "We have sacrificed and supported them in their Democratic progress and in tackling the insurgency and al-Qaida."

The U.S. and Afghanistan are in the last stages of negotiating a "bilateral security agreement," Rice said, but no apology letter is being considered.

Reuters had reported that Obama agreed to write a letter of apology to the Afghan people acknowledging mistakes made during the "war on terror" and the suffering of the Afghan people.

Afghans are still angry over several incidents involving international troops, including the 2012 accidental burning of hundreds of copies of the Quran; a shooting spree that year by a U.S. soldier in southern Afghanistan that killed 16 people, mostly women and children; and the unintentional deaths of civilians by wayward bombs.

NBC reported on a draft of the security agreement dated July 25, 2013, that shows the United States would pay to maintain multiple military outposts in Afghanistan indefinitely and pay to support hundreds of thousands of Afghan security forces. The document obtained by NBC makes no mention of an apology from the United States.

Reuters also reported that Afghan spokesman Aimal Faizi said the sides had agreed on a final version of the bilateral security pact that will be submitted to Afghan tribal and political leaders for approval this week.

Faizi told reporters the agreement was partly owed Obama's promise to write the letter to the Afghan people acknowledging mistakes made during the 12-year war.

"Both sides agreed that Obama send a letter ... assuring the president and the people of Afghanistan that the right to enter into Afghan homes by U.S. forces and the extraordinary circumstances will not be misused," Faizi said.

"The whole idea of having a letter was to acknowledge the suffering of the Afghan people and the mistakes of the past. That was the only thing that satisfied the president," Faizi added.

But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters: "There are still some final issues that we are working through. We are not there yet."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the issue with Afghan President Hamid Karzai by telephone earlier on Tuesday, Psaki added.

Karzai does not need the tribal leaders' permission to sign the deal, but has said he will not do so without their permission.

Under the pact, U.S. troops will have sole control over Bagram Air Field north of Kabul, but will share facilities on eight Afghan-run bases throughout the country, Afghan lawmaker Khaled Pashtun told The Associated Press.

National Security adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta told lawmakers at a weekend briefing that 10,000 to 16,000 residual U.S. and NATO service personnel would stay behind in Afghanistan after 2014, lawmaker Shah Gul Rezayee told AP. They would mentor and train the Afghan security forces, she said.

The independent Afghan Analysts Network, said Karzai also won a key security agreement from the United States that promised joint action — political, economic or military — against anyone attacking Afghanistan or giving safe haven to Afghan insurgents seeking to unseat the government.

The last-minute deal was reached just two days before Afghan leaders gather to debate the pact. It will contain provisions to give U.S. troops immunity from Afghan law and allow them to enter Afghan homes in exceptional circumstances.

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